Augusta University psychiatrist shares insight into back to school – Jagwire

Children in CSRA and across the country are returning to school in the coming weeks, and that brings uncertainty and stress for students of all ages, as well as their parents.

Children usually have a lot of things on their minds this time of year, including being accepted by their peers, doing homework, engaging in extracurricular activities, and making sure they get enough sleep.

In recent years, however, stress and anxiety have taken on new forms and appear to be increasing, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and mass shootings in places like schools.

But if there’s one thing that Dr. What Dale Peeples can say about children even before the pandemic, it’s that they are resilient and can recover from almost anything.

dr Dale Peeples, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at Augusta University Medical College of Georgia

“Children are resilient and that is one of the reasons I went into child psychiatry. They do a lot of work for me because they get better on their own, and I’m just here to support them on their journey,” said Peeples.

“I share this optimistic attitude that a child will do better if given time. Sometimes it’s easy to use the security forces to back them up and make sure they stay on track and try to notice and acknowledge those small victories.”

Peeples, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at Augusta University Medical College of Georgia, is a licensed child and adolescent psychiatrist and believes that parents or guardians are children’s greatest advocates in their fight against stress, anxiety and depression .

“Adults caring for children really need to pay attention to their child, see where they have strengths and try to direct their activities and interests to where a child sees themselves as successful. This can boost that self-esteem and also help them on their road to recovery,” Peeples said.

There’s one thing Peeples believes can stave off psychological issues in many children — and before the pandemic, it might have felt like a distant memory. Peeples believes that sharing at least one meal each day as a family helps keep lines of communication open.

“The communication is obviously ideal. Families want to make sure they continue to meet, have dinner as a family and discuss how Children’s Day went so that parents and guardians are up to date on what children have to do,” Peeples said. “Trying to keep that open line of communication so kids can raise concerns and parents can try to address them sooner really helps.”

Peeples believes this open communication between caregivers and their children can help identify warning signs of depression.

“Parents need to be on the lookout for symptoms of depression: these are mood swings, sadness or depression, but also when children withdraw socially by locking themselves in their rooms because they don’t want to go out, want to be with other people, do things that they enjoy,” said Peeples.

“I also try to encourage families to keep an eye on social media because kids sometimes express things there that they don’t say to their parents face to face,” Peeples continued. “They don’t want to spy on them behind their backs, but I think it’s a good idea when kids set up social media accounts if they agree to add their parents as friends so they at least know what the kids are sharing with the.” public and such. Of course, it’s also important to have a good relationship with your child’s friends because they will have a big influence on your child’s behavior.”

family cooking dinner together
dr Dale Peeples believes that sharing at least one meal each day as a family can stave off psychological problems in many children by keeping lines of communication open.

Peeples notes that this open line of communication doesn’t have to be a one-way street, and he makes sure to mention to his patients that they need to be willing to communicate with their parents.

You also need a lot of rest. A simple solution? Turn off your cell phone or at least put it in another room while you sleep.

“Honestly, the biggest thing kids struggle with is sleep. Sleep has a tremendous impact on mood and anxiety, and in this day and age of cell phone notifications coming in 24/7, it’s really difficult to sleep properly,” Peeples said.

“Talking to kids about trying to get at least eight, maybe even better 10 hours of rest and keeping the electronics out of the bedroom can go a long way. Exercise also helps with emotional state, reduces anxiety, and aids in sleep. Make sure you’re socially connected, that you feel like you have a few good friends to turn to, and that you’re talking to your family. Those are big things that I encourage everyone I see, and I think they’re good advice for the community in general as well.”

While the increased stress from the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many age groups, Peeples has noted that older kids — those in middle school and early years of high school — seem to have had more trouble. Students in this age group face more hurdles than younger or older students, including trying to form relationships with their peers. At this age, schoolwork also begins to increase.

“Peer relationships become much more important in teenage years than when they were younger. Therefore, it is more difficult for these older children to deal with being removed from their friends. Also, school is becoming more demanding and sometimes catching up on missed work is a bit more challenging than the younger classes.”

Adding to the social anxiety about going back to school after the major disruptions of the past two years, there has been increased media coverage of mass shootings, particularly in schools, in recent years and this is obviously of particular concern to parents.

“It’s a topic of conversation that comes up in the office. Both parents and children sometimes bring it up as a concern,” Peeples said. “It can be difficult, especially for young children, to understand that the news is repeating the same story five times. For younger elementary school kids, the way they think about things can seem a bit concrete, so every time they hear it on the news they feel like it’s happening over and over again. It could just be the same story.

“So part of that is parents controlling media consumption for younger kids,” Peeples continued. “Teenagers obviously understand what’s going on and it will be a bit more difficult for parents to monitor the media, but these open table discussions can let parents know when their children are worried.

“It is of paramount importance to ensure that people experiencing a mental health crisis know how to reach out. We have the Georgia Crisis Access Line. If you are concerned about someone, or love someone, speaking up and making sure they get the help and support they need to prevent these tragedies is crucial.”

Each month, Jagwire features a different researcher speaking about their field as part of our new research series.

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